WEST ORANGE, NJ — Three-year-old twins Luciano and Noah of West Orange both recently had their wishes granted by Make-A-Wish New Jersey, which sent them to Walt Disney World, as per Noah’s request, and presented them with a playset, as per Luciano’s wish.
The mission of Make-A-Wish New Jersey is to create life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. Luciano and Noah were born in 2016 with significantly low platelet counts, and both of them experienced multiple transfusions in the first few months of their lives out of fear that one of the infant would bleed out while doctors worked to determine the cause.
“For three months, we didn’t know what it was,” said their mother, Edna.
The twins were eventually diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder identified as “Wiskott Aldrich” syndrome and both received a bone marrow transplant in October of 2017 as a result. Over the next few years, Noah and Luciano faced various other challenges, including ports, medications through IV, chemotherapy and temporary G-tubes for feeding.
“Luciano got very sick, and we had to increase his IV steroids due to his illness,” said. “It weakened his muscles, and he even stopped walking on his own.”
The family was introduced to Make-A-Wish thorough one of the social workers while the twins were receiving treatment at Hackensack University Medical Center.
Luciano’s wish of lifetime was a playset for his family’s backyard.
“Luciano was having a harder time than Noah,” said Edna. “He was immune-compromised, and so he could not visit public playgrounds for fear of germs from other kids. It was really difficult.”
According to Make-a-Wish New Jersey, which kicked off its March 2020 “Month of Giving” on March 1, Luciano’s playset gave him “the joy and imaginative freedom he otherwise could not experience, running around and playing outside with his twin brother.”
“It was the first time in a long time I felt like I saw my two children being normal siblings again,” said Edna. “Noah also pushes Luciano a little. It helps him, seeing them smile, play, have fun…And we have this for them to share forever.”
A few months later, Noah’s wish to visit Walt Disney World and other amusements parks in Florida was granted and ultimately served as a week-long respite for the entire family.
“Noah loves superheroes—especially the Incredible Hulk and Captain America,” said Edna. “In fact, he and Luciano got to meet the Marvel characters on their third birthday when we were in Disney World.”
The trip to Florida was more than just a simple vacation; it was a chance for the entire family to get away from the treatments, the checkups, the medical protocols and the constant stress of schedules that had consumed the family over the last three years.
“Every day, we had somewhere exciting to go, or something exciting to do,” said Edna. “Whether it was an amusement park, or the kids playing and running through water fountains with other children, just watching them have fun and be kids again was so special.”
According to their mother, Luciano made great strides while on his brother’s wish trip.
“Luciano had a hard time with water ever since his port was put in,” said Edna. “He was afraid to enter any type of water. But during our week at ‘Give Kids The World,’ he went right into the pools with no problem. He seemed motivated to try new things.”
Since her sons’ wishes were granted, Edna said both twins have found a newfound energy.
Noah continues to improve daily, with treatments becoming less frequent and sights set on being treatment-free in the near future, and Luciano, who struggled with feeding and many other concerning effects of his condition, recently advanced to eating on his own with certain soft foods.
The brothers’ wishes were both granted thanks to the funds raised by local Jersey Mike’s Subs restaurants as part of last year’s “Month of Giving” campaign, which granted more than 40 wishes for kids like Luciano and Noah.
Since its inception in 1983, Make-A-Wish New Jersey has granted nearly 11,000 wishes for local youth like Luciano and Noah. For more information about Make-A-Wish New Jersey and the Jersey Mike’s Subs “Month of Giving,” visit nj.wish.org/jerseymikes.